What I’m Into in January

This month, my pregnancy has become even more real to me, with full-blown nausea and fatigue that often accompany the first trimester. We’ve also chosen a midwife, and will have our first appointment with her tonight. At 7 weeks pregnant, our baby is now the size of a blueberry and has begun developing important organs like lungs, a brain, and a stomach. If we’re lucky, we may be able to hear baby’s heartbeat with a fetal doppler at our appointment tonight, although it still may be too early.

At the end of this month I will be beginning my training as a life coach. Just before I became pregnant with Cody I began this same program, but felt that I had to put it on hold when I started to feel the symptoms of pregnancy. I also felt that I would not be able to work as a life coach while balancing being a stay-at-home-mom. Well, now that I’ve done it for two years, I feel confident that I can balance work and motherhood, and I’m ready to try again. The timing is definitely funny, with me being pregnant again, but this time I am determined to power through. After all, this part only lasts a couple of months, if my pregnancy with Cody is any indication. The second trimester will hopefully be much more comfortable for me! But anyway, my training as a CPCLC or Certified Professional Christian Life Coach, will involve a weekly 3-hour webinar session, as well as outside reading, buddy assignments, and other homework. It’s going to keep me busy, but I’m ready for the challenge!

In the meantime, my training as a Hypnobabies Instructor is coming along well. I’ve almost completed all of the pre-requisites that need to be finished before the in-person training in New Mexico, which takes place in April. So fortunately, I won’t have to balance Hypnobabies training and Life Coach training at the same time (for the most part).

Our family is doing well, including our dogs and guinea pigs. Marley is starting to show his age more with noticeable hearing loss and a more frequent need to go outside, but otherwise still acts like his same self, including bouts of puppy-like energy. Amelia and Clementine have adjusted to their new home smoothly and our three little pigs are a happy herd.

Cody’s antics this month include talking more and more, an obsession with mac and cheese and cheese puffs, getting his second molars in on one side, and beginning to identify a few letters and numbers. He also said “I love you,” to me today of his own volition, which is a moment I will always remember. As we’ve explained our expectancy of a second baby to him, he has expressed different emotions from despair to excitement to curiosity, and he has also told us his preference for brother, sister, or neither–it changes frequently. Overall, I think he will be ready to be a big brother when the time comes, although it will certainly be an adjustment for him.

That’s what the picture looks like for us in January… and here’s what I’m into this month.

What I’m Watching:

This month is bringing back a bunch of my favorite shows, so I’m pretty darn excited!

Bones – One of my all-time favorite shows has begun it’s final season. I’m going to enjoy every single episode of watching my favorite characters solve crimes with nothing but a few bone fragments or a puddle of dissolved remains.

The Bachelor – Ah, my guilty pleasure; this show along with its sisters the Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise. I can’t get enough of the manipulated and dramaticized journeys of these individuals to find love. After all, being on this show is the last hope for so many of them, or so they would have you believe. Why? Because what better way to find lasting romance than on reality TV! Right? 😉 Seriously though, I love it. I’m excited to watch Nick’s journey this season! Personally, I’ve always been a fan of his and never understood why he was seen as a “villain.” Whatevs.

Series of Unfortunate Events – Yes, you read that right. It’s now a TV show, premiering this month! As one of my all-time favorite book series from my childhood, I don’t think I could be more excited about this. The casting of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny looks perfect, and to top it off, they’ve got Neil Patrick Harris (from How I Met Your Mother, another favorite of mine) playing Count Olaf. Yeeeee!!!

What I’m Reading:

Lady Midnight (The Dark Artifices) by Cassandra Clare
I’m still working on this one. It’s a thick book, and I only have stolen time to read it during Cody’s naps, after doing more important things like writing this blog post. 😉 So far, I’m really enjoying it! It’s especially cool to see the glimpses of my favorite characters from this universe, from previous books. Plus, the storyline in this book is interesting and of course, the forbidden romance that has yet to be confessed is compelling.

The One Year Hearing His Voice Devotional: 365 Days of Intimate Communication with God by Chris Tiegreen
This book was a gift from the Christian Coach Institute where I will be training soon, and I’ve been enjoying the short, yet meaningful daily readings as part of my morning routine.

What I’m Cooking:

Ramen – Using a recipe I modified from Munchery, I’ve been enjoying this delicious noodle soup with chicken and veggies. It’s soothing to my sensitive preggo stomach, and it’s pretty nutritious too. This is one of those meals that I have to force myself to stop eating when I’m full. I plan to share the recipe soon!

Baked Potatoes – Okay, this is pretty basic. But there is almost nothing I’ve been enjoying more during this nauseous time than a good, baked potato. I especially love using red or yukon gold potatoes. Butter and salt on top, of course. Yummmmmm.

Steak – Before this pregnancy, I rarely indulged in a steak. I thought it was too expensive and a less healthy choice compared to chicken. But now, with a higher daily protein and iron goal, I’ve been incorporating steak into my menu once a week. I’ve been surprised to find that some of the very affordable cuts are still delicious, and not hard to cook. It’s giving me new skills in the kitchen, so that’s a bonus. So far, a simple salt and pepper rub and oven broiling method have worked well for me. Mmmm, meat!

Recipe of the Month – Chicken Dumpling Stew

This recipe is for one of the most taste-bud-pleasing, comforting, and easy recipes in my cook book. It uses a lot of “cheat” ingredients, which is one reason it’s so easy. It also uses a slow cooker, which usually means a low-involvement dinner that basically cooks itself. What’s not to love?

 

Servings: about 6

Prep Time: 5 mins

Cook Time: 5 hrs

 

Ingredients:

4 skinless boneless chicken thighs

2 tbsp salted butter

1 can cream of mushroom soup (condensed, 10.5 oz)

1 can cream of chicken soup (condensed, 10.5 oz)

1/2 carton chicken broth (16 oz)

1 bag frozen mixed veggies (16 oz)

1 bag frozen diced onions (12 oz)

Seasoned salt

Pepper

Dry parsley (optional)

1 can biscuits

 

Instructions:

Place chicken thighs in slow cooker along with everything but the biscuits: butter, cream of mushroom soup, cream of chicken soup, chicken broth, mixed veggies, onions, salt, pepper, and parsley. Stir to mix somewhat – but it doesn’t have to be perfectly combined at this point. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours.

chicken-dumpling-stew-in-pot

Tear biscuits into small pieces and drop into stew. Continue to cook on high for 1 hour, or until chicken reaches internal temperature of 165 and biscuits are cooked through. Use two forks to tear chicken into smaller pieces. Serve and enjoy!

chicken-dumpling-stew-bowl

Notes:

The measurements for the ingredients are based on what was available at my grocery store. If you have a bag of mixed veggies or onions or canned ingredients that are slightly bigger or smaller, don’t worry about it, just toss it in. The stew will still be delicious!

Chicken thighs sometimes aren’t available as boneless and skinless. In that case, it will take a little bit more work to separate the skin and bones from the meat. You can carefully cut off the skin first, and then cut chunks of meat away from the bone, and toss them into the slow cooker just like that. Either way, don’t worry about cutting them up before cooking, because it’s super easy to shred those pieces after they’re cooked. Just probe around with two forks and tear up any big chunks you find, before serving.

Almost all of these ingredients can be purchased organic, or you can prepare them yourself if you prefer. Mixed veggies can be prepared with fresh produce by mixing peas, corn, chopped baby green beans, and thin chopped carrots. You can dice fresh onions. Even cream of chicken soup, cream of mushroom soup, and chicken broth can be made from scratch, if you prefer. And of course, buttermilk biscuits can be made by hand as well. I like to use shortcuts when possible, but you can make this recipe as “from scratch” as you’d like! Recipes for all of those things can be found easily online.

The {Bedtime} Struggle Is Real

bedtime-struggle

I’ve mentioned many times that my family is a co-sleeping one. We love sharing our bed with our precious son, and couldn’t imagine sleeping in a separate room from him. Those snuggles, special memories, and the closeness and security we all feel being together are priceless. There are moments we’ve been able to enjoy that would never have happened if we weren’t co-sleepers, like hearing Cody’s first laugh, in his sleep in the middle of the night when he was two months old. Being pat gently on the face and greeted, “hi mama,” first thing in the morning is another thing I treasure.

Plus, when you’re breastfeeding on-demand with a high-need baby, co-sleeping is really the only way to go. Rolling over to nurse and falling back asleep is so much better than trudging down the hall, nursing in a chair, re-settling the baby in the crib, and then dragging yourself back to bed. Co-sleeping has allowed me to be an active nighttime parent without sacrificing sleep any more than necessary. And even though my sleep has been interrupted every night for more than the past two years, it has still been adequate and I have never felt sleep-deprived. It may not be for everyone, but co-sleeping is definitely for us!

Yet one thing I have sometimes felt misled about when it comes to co-sleeping is the idea that doing so will lessen bedtime battles and bedtime anxiety. The idea is that since your child knows you will be with them throughout the night, they don’t fight bedtime as much as other kids who are dreading the long period of separation. Yet for us, bedtime has been an increasingly challenging routine.

It started with Cody occasionally having a hard time falling asleep, or seeming “wired” at bedtime. Then it became a common situation to spend up to an hour trying to put him to sleep. As attachment parents, we don’t believe in sleep training, and we have always helped Cody go to sleep by nursing, rocking, and snuggling in bed. But we came to a point where none of that was working. We’d already been using white noise, blackout curtains, and a consistent bedtime routine. We started eliminating any screen time within a couple of hours of bedtime. We tried putting him to bed earlier, or later, or at a more consistent time. Nothing seemed to help! Finally, we tried giving him a very small dose of melatonin on nights when he was taking over 30 minutes to fall asleep. When that became almost every night for about two weeks, we finally decided that something had to change. We were not comfortable relying on drugs to get him to sleep!

I did some research, weeded through the sleep-training sales pitches, and finally came across an article written by a fellow attachment parent and co-sleeper, describing exactly my problem. The solution was simple, but kind of sucked: making your bedtime the same as your child’s. At first I was resistant. Cory and I have really enjoyed our hour or two of alone time to relax together at night. We also often used some of that time to catch up on chores. Losing it was not an appealing idea. Yet as I read this article, I realized the truth of the matter, which was that many nights we weren’t getting that time anymore anyway. At this point, we were spending an hour or more putting Cody to bed, and then pushing our bedtime out further and further just to have 45 minutes or less of time to ourselves. It was inefficient, stressful, and pointless.

We knew that we had two realistic choices. We could sleep train our toddler, going against our instincts as parents and undermining the strong attachment and sense of security we have built with Cody since his birth. Or, we could make another sacrifice on this parenting journey, and start going to sleep with him to put an end to his bedtime anxiety.

Attachment parenting is many things, but easy and convenient are not the words I would use. And you know what? That’s okay. Parenting shouldn’t be easy or convenient. Parenting should be about sacrifice. It’s about giving everything you have and are to raise your children to be the best they can be. It’s not always fun, and it’s not always comfortable. But boy, is it worth it. That love… it’s like nothing else.

So we followed the way of love, and gave up our alone time to help Cody have a better bedtime. It has been so much easier already. The bonus is that even though we don’t have that alone time, we do get more sleep, which I desperately need now that I’m pregnant. Plus, Cory can get up earlier in the morning and have time to himself for working on his personal projects, which works out really well considering the morning is his most productive time of day. I still get my alone time every day during his nap, which has been really good for a long time! I think it’s interesting that he has no issues going down for naps (except on the days when he randomly decides to skip it), but bedtime has been so difficult. This kid likes to keep things interesting!

Anyway, Cory and I still have time alone on the weekends during Cody’s naps, and we allow ourselves TV time in the evening even with Cody around. He’s going to be a very “cultured” child, you could say. 😉 There may be a time when we decide that “adult” TV isn’t appropriate for him, but for now, we’re okay with him being exposed to the stuff we watch. We tend to be fairly protective over what images and words and themes go into our minds anyway. But that’s a topic for another post.

As far as bedtime goes, it has been stress-free since we made the change. He still doesn’t go to sleep very quickly yet, but at least now we’re using that time to fall asleep ourselves, rather than laying awake and waiting for him to fall asleep. And I can say one thing for sure; I have been enjoying the extra sleep for myself.

We’re Expecting!

pregnancy-announcement

Happy New Year, readers!

I hope you and your family have an excellent year full of joy, growth, and life at its fullest.

This year is going to be an exciting one for my family, because we’re expecting our second baby in August!

At just six weeks pregnant, it’s amazing to know that our little baby already has a heart that’s beating and the beginnings of arms, legs, and facial features. How unbelievable is the miracle of life? God’s creative power never ceases to amaze me. We can’t wait to welcome our second babe into the world. <3

My Favorite Toys {For Kids Under Three}

favorite-toys

Since Christmas, Cody has officially reached the point where I can say that he does not need anymore toys for a long, long while. He has a house full of toys, many of which he plays with; but he also has a lot of toys that he rarely touches, or only plays with for a few seconds every once in a while. Some of his toys are ones that I think he will grow to enjoy more as he gets older, and some of them are probably ready to be retired and saved for the next baby. But overall, there are a few toys that he loves most of all, and those are the ones I’m going to share with you today.

Toys can be a big source of clutter in families’ homes, so it’s important to make sure that the ones you have are ones that are worth the space they take up. All kids are different, so some of the toys that Cody loves might be completely uninteresting to your children, and vice versa. But if I had to choose one type of toy as the best for almost any kid, I would say toys that encourage imaginative play are the best. Electronic and musical toys, those that encourage physical activity, and creative activities like painting and coloring are all fun, too. Yet I have found that most of them don’t get used as much as imaginative play toys. In Cody’s case, he especially likes toys that let him pretend and mimic activities that he sees me doing.

Here are my top five favorite kids’ toys, for kids under three!

1. Play kitchen

Cody has a play kitchen similar to this, which he plays with every day. Personally, I think Step 2 makes pretty good toys compared to some other popular brands, and the kitchen is a good example. It’s well-built and has cute features that are fun for kids. It comes with a reasonable amount of accessories, too.

2. Play cleaning sets

If I had to pick Cody’s favorite toy, I would pick this one. He loves to run around the house with these cleaning toys, especially the broom. He also really likes the little spray bottle, which actually works but I turned it to “off”. 😉 He enjoys pretending to clean and, ironically, making a mess by scattering these toys all around the house. Melissa and Doug is definitely my favorite toy brand; they make toys that use less plastic, are high quality, and encourage imagination.

3. Animals

These toy animal figurines are another favorite of Cody’s. He likes to play pretend with them, practice his animal sounds, and show us how he can identify them by name. He takes them in the bath sometimes, too. This set is cute and sturdy, and safe for the smallest baby hands. Cody also likes stuffed animals, which were a favorite toy of mine as a child.

4. Cars

Like many boys (and girls!), Cody loves cars. He likes to hold them, drive them around, stack them up, and anything else you could think of. These ones are fun and cute because they make noises and are chunky enough for little hands without being too big. There are many different cars in this line of products, like a trash truck, fire engine, truck and trailer, construction trucks, trains, a plane, a bus… you name it! The fun part is that all of the toy vehicles in this line work and interact with the Go! Go! Smart Wheels tracks, which are expandable.

5. Knick knacks

As many parents will attest, kids often seem more interested in playing with things that aren’t toys. So while I have already shared four of Cody’s most beloved toys, I also have to admit that a lot of his playtime is spent on the box of knick knacks we have assembled for him. This box includes things like small prizes from kids’ play places, cereal box toys, old credit cards, old sunglasses, cleaned plastic food containers, lids to random bottles, and even some rocks. He likes to dump out and examine these items, and use them for different imaginative purposes. While most of these items have just been collected for free around our house, we also have added things like these stacking cups and these plastic chain rings.

Those are the top 5 toys I would choose to keep if I had to get rid of everything else. Lucky for Cody, that’s not the case! 😉 But if you’re interested in limiting the number of toys in your home, or trying to find new toys that will hold your little ones’ interest, then these might be a good place to start.

Happy play time!

What I’m Into in December

december-char

December has been a month of great joy and sadness for my family. I love the holiday season, and enjoy spending special times with my extended family. We are happy to have a low-stress Christmas planned this year, with only one short trip to Orange County and the rest of our time spent locally. We also decided to go super simple on gifts this year; we bought a few toys for Cody, a few gifts for ourselves as a family, and we are giving all of our loved ones homemade cookies and eggnog. It’s going to be a long week of baking, but there was no stress about financing our gifting this year, so it’s worth it! We also have an artificial tree, and we decided not to buy any extra decorations this year. Those things have helped us to enjoy Christmas without worrying about money, which is how it should be anyway. We’re able to focus on the true meaning of Christmas, celebrating the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ!

We are also excited about our decision to try for another baby, which we were originally planning to postpone until April. Starting in January, I will be back in training as a Christian Life Coach, in the same program I started just before becoming pregnant with Cody. I left the program because I felt too sick and tired from being pregnant and I felt that it was time to focus on the next chapter in my life, parenthood. But now, I feel ready and excited to jump back in, and figure out how to balance parenting and working as a work-at-home mom. I also will be in training to become a Hypnobabies Instructor in April, a dream I have had since using Hypnobabies with Cody’s birth. Because of these career goals, I felt that postponing another pregnancy until after my trainings were finished was best. But after a lot of soul-searching, Cory and I have decided that there is rarely a perfect time to have a baby. But we are ready for baby #2, and we don’t want to wait! That decision has brought us a lot of joy this month, and we’re eager to see our family grow.

Yet this month has also included a lot of stress and sadness over our guinea pig, Charlotte. She had been sick for two months and was deteriorating rapidly over the past few weeks. After losing about a third of her body weight and not responding to three different rounds of antibiotics, along with antihistamines and hand-feeding, we knew that she was not going to recover. We chose to end her suffering and let her go peacefully to sleep. It was heartbreaking, and still is. Some people might think it’s silly to be so upset over a guinea pig, but these creatures have so much personality! She loved to be pet gently and have her back scratched, and would purr and chirp to us. She would wheek for veggies every night, and popcorn around her cage when she was excited about fresh bedding or hay. We adopted her as a 6 week old baby, and she only lived to be 11 months old. We did everything we could to help her get well, but it wasn’t enough, and that hurts my heart.

Because we saw it coming, we decided to adopt a third guinea pig to keep Charlotte’s bonded partner, Penelope, company. Guinea pigs can go through a depression that can be dangerous for their health when they are grieving the loss of a partner. Our new pig, Amelia, will hopefully help Penny have an easier adjustment period. Now that Charlotte is gone, we plan to adopt another pig because we like having a herd of three. It’s been helping me cope with Charlotte’s loss to enjoy baby Amelia, and look for another girl to add to our home. We will always miss Charlotte, but I have peace now knowing that she’s not suffering anymore, and that Penelope and Amelia will continue to live a happy life with us.

December has also brought a golden period for our puppy Lila, who had troublesome behavioral problems for many months since we adopted her back in April. Finally, at 10 months old, she has become a generally well-behaved member of our pack. It’s taken a lot of stress off of us to see that she is doing so well now.

Of course, that stress was replaced by Cody, who has really come into his terrible twos over the past couple of weeks. His tantrums, whining, sensitivity, uncooperativeness, and occasional aggression have been challenging us on a whole new level. We are learning as we go when it comes to parenting and discipline, as this is definitely testing my knowledge and ideals in these areas. As with many (if not all) parents, and especially moms, I am learning firsthand what it means to feel “mommy guilt.” I have to remind myself frequently that I’m not messing everything up or somehow ruining my child, that in fact I am doing a really good job. It’s hard to feel that way sometimes when you have a toddler who acts like a total brat–but then again, all toddlers are this way! It’s a stage of development that they all go through, and it’s not my job to control him or make him act how I want him to. It’s my job to control myself and act with integrity and respect and kindness and love, no matter what my child does. That’s one of the most important lessons I have learned so far as a parent!

Lastly, I had to let go of a short-lived dream I had to make a career out of blogging. After over a month of working hard to gain subscribers, I made absolutely no progress, and decided to go back to blogging for fun. It was disappointing, but I also feel a weight off now that I’ve let it go. I want writing to be free and fun, instead of feeling like I have to jump through hoops to run a blog business.

So that’s it! That’s my month. Here’s what I’m into right now:

What I’m Watching:

Colony – A sci-fi drama about a family struggling to live in an authoritarian state in LA, after an invasion by what I suspect are aliens. There’s a lot of mystery and a dark, thought-provoking plotline. It has one season currently available on Netflix.

Fuller House – A family sitcom created as a continuation of the 90’s show, Full House. It’s light, cute, kid-friendly comedy. It’s a Netflix original, with two seasons currently available.

Designated Survivor – A political thriller about a terrorist attack that wipes out the entire US government and leaves the presidency to the designated survivor, a member of the previous president’s cabinet. The new president, Kirkman, struggles to navigate the political waters without compromising his morals, and must sort through conspiracy theories about the origin of the attack. Episodes are released weekly on Hulu.

This Is Us – A family drama about adult triplets with various struggles, and their family of origin. I love the time jumps, plot twists, and compelling drama. This show addresses some very thought-provoking issues and can be very moving. The pilot is the best pilot episode I have ever seen, hands down. Episodes are released weekly on Hulu.

 

What I’m Reading:

Lady Midnight (The Dark Artifices) by Cassandra Clare

This is a book I have wanted to read for a long time, in the same universe as the Mortal Instruments series and the lesser known Infernal Devices series. This is book one of the Dark Artifices series, which will be a trilogy. I love Clare’s books and I’m excited to jump into this one. I just got it from Amazon, but have not yet had time to start reading.

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin

I read this book as part of my Hypnobabies Instructor education, and it was very enlightening and reignited my passion for childbirth. It’s an amazing book and I would highly recommend it to anybody in the birth world, as well as anyone who is planning to have babies in the near future.

 

What I’m Cooking: (recipes coming soon!)

Chicken Dumpling Stew – oh my yum! I can’t wait to post this recipe. It’s such a good comfort food.

Mashed Potatoes – a holiday staple. My recipe involves bacon grease. Enough said.

Butter Chicken – a very tasty way to cook chicken breasts. And it’s easy!

Brown Sugar Meatloaf – although meatloaf has a bad reputation for some people, the recipe I use is seriously delectable. If I could marry this meatloaf, I probably would. 😛

What the Fruit?

what-the-fruit

What does it mean to be fruitful and abundant? According to the Bible, it means that we display the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. It means that our lives reflect and prove God’s goodness.

All Christians are called to be fruitful and abundant. This is not only a gift from God, but a design for his glory. Our fruitfulness comes naturally when we seek God and allow him to change us.

God desires for us to live in complete surrender to him. That means we let him in, trust him, and follow his guidance through the Holy Spirit. When we do that, we are transformed and our lives are transformed. We become people who produce good things (fruit). The Holy Spirit produces these godly traits in us. Our lives are abundant and we are able to feed others with the bounty that God has created for us. In simple terms, we become better, our lives become better, and we can help others better. That is the meaning of the Fruit of the Spirit.

In John 15:5-8, Jesus said:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

The Bible describes the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. It says: “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”

From these verses we can understand that the fruit of the Spirit is what we develop when we remain in deep relationship with God. Our abundance and our fruitfulness can then point others to God. Each of the character traits listed here has an important role in what it means to be a true follower of Christ, rather than just a “Christian” living outside of relationship with Jesus.

Love

Love is the reason for everything, the greatest purpose in life. God created us and the entire world so we could love him. When we failed to do that, he sent his son, Jesus, to sacrifice himself so that we could be reconnected with God and all of his perfection. Since the beginning of time, God has desperately loved us and wanted to be loved back by us.

In Matthew 22:37-40, we are told that love is our greatest calling. “Jesus replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.’”

Joy

Joy is not only a gift to us, but a gift to others. Joy is contagious. And I am convinced that we can never find true joy until we learn to delight ourselves in God, above all else. When we do that, we will also find that he gives us the desires of our hearts. God is a loving God who gives us great gifts! Yet contentment and gratitude with what we have now, and an intimate relationship with God, are keys to finding joy that can never be taken from us no matter what the circumstances. This attitude of joy is not one we can develop in our human power, but one that God creates in us through his power.

Peace

I have learned the hard way that God isn’t a genie. But he is a loving Father, who longs to care for us and bless us with great gifts, especially when we are living close to him. It give me great peace to know that God cares so deeply for me, and that he can be trusted to care for my needs. And even though it can be difficult for my human heart to accept it when God doesn’t grant my requests, ultimately I have peace knowing that he has my best interest at heart. It brings me peace to know that God will enact his plan for my life, not my plan for my life.

Patience

One of my biggest struggles in life, time and time again, has been patience. I become easily discouraged when I feel that things aren’t moving fast enough in my life. But God continues to remind me that I can accept where I am each day knowing that his timing is perfect, and he has me exactly where I am for a reason. He reminds me that he has good things in store for me, and that I have good things to enjoy today, too. That gives me patience to live in the moment.

Kindness and Goodness

I don’t know about you, but I need the Holy Spirit to be the one guiding my actions each and every day. On my own, I am human–often selfish, unkind, and weak. Yet in Christ I am perfect and whole and overwhelmingly good in God’s eyes, because when he looks at me, he sees Jesus. Knowing that just makes me want to live up to the person that God has shown me I truly am. The Spirit helps me to be this person. Through God, we have supernatural power to be good and kind in a world that is often anything but.

Faithfulness

Faith is a decision to trust. With God, it also means accepting that he is greater, and that his ways and his thoughts are far above ours as humans. The fact of the matter is that I will never fully understand God, at least in this lifetime. But I can choose to trust that he is good, that he loves me, and that ultimately, he has saved my soul for eternity. I can choose faith even when I don’t understand and I can’t see what he’s doing. God meets us where our faith is. If we trust him to save our souls, he will. If we trust him to provide for us, he will. If he trust him to heal us, he will. If we trust him to give us marriage and children, he will. He may not always work in the way or timeframe that we think he should, but he is faithful. One of the most precious ways that God helps us through his Holy Spirit is by giving us the gift of faith. Faith enables us to believe him in the face of struggles and disappointment. Faith is the root of our hope.

Gentleness and Self-Control

These traits require humility and trust in God. To develop them, we must learn to let go. When we let go of the things that we can’t control, we can focus on the things we can control; our own thoughts and actions. God can empower us to rise above what other people do or say, and reflect his mercy and strength instead.

 

The fruits of the Spirit and an abundant life are ways that God desires for us to be identified as his followers to the world. These should be the things that make us different, that make us into salt and light for the world. By these things, we can begin to fulfill our mission in this life, which God has given us. We are here to lead others into relationship with God, the only one who can heal the brokenness and satisfy the hearts of all humanity. We are here to build his Kingdom of love.

 

This is a refreshed repost of a series I did around three years ago, about the fruit of the Spirit. For the original series, click here. This will take you to a list of all 9 posts from the series. =]

 

Recipe of the Month – Creamy Eggnog

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This recipe is for delicious, creamy eggnog–a perfect holiday treat! I created this recipe to fit my idea of a perfect eggnog. Three unique features of this recipe are that the eggs are cooked for safety, the whole eggs are used rather than just the yolks, and there is no alcohol included. These are my preferences, but the recipe can be adapted if yours are different! See the notes at the bottom for more details.

Servings: 8 cups (½ gallon)
Total Time: 35 minutes to prepare + 2 hours or so to cool

Ingredients:
6 eggs
6 cups half and half
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Instructions:
Beat eggs with an immersion blender* or electric mixer until smooth and well combined. Add half and half, and blend well. Pour into a nonstick pot and heat over low, stirring frequently.

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Cook until the mixture reaches 160° F. Remove to a bowl, and add the sugar, salt, vanilla, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Beat together with an immersion blender* or electric mixer on medium high for 2 minutes, until everything is smoothly combined.

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Cover the bowl and put it in the fridge or freezer to cool completely. Once cooled, taste test, and add more sugar or spices to taste if desired. You can give it another whirl with the blender or mixer for extra smoothness. Pour into mason jars, a pitcher, or a punch bowl and refrigerate or serve immediately.

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Notes:

Most eggnog recipes call for using the yolks only, and using them raw. Or, you might find recipes that use beaten egg whites as a topping for the eggnog. I have tried those methods and found that I can’t tell the difference, taste-wise. And since I prefer to cook the eggs for safety, and I’d rather get more use from the eggs, I don’t separate them. I think this nog is pretty delicious despite being “non-traditional.” However, if you prefer to separate your eggs, you can do so. In that case, you might cook the yolks with the half and half, or just use them raw and skip the cooking step. The whites can be beaten to stiff peaks and folded in at the end, or left out entirely.

I use half and half because I think it’s easiest, and has a good creamy texture without being too heavy. An alternative option is to use 3 cups whipping cream and 3 cups whole milk, instead of the 6 cups half and half. Personally, heavy whipping cream tastes too “greasy” to me, which is why I prefer regular whipping cream, the slightly less fatty version. Ultimately, the goal is to get a mixture that is about half cream and half milk.

*I recommend using an immersion blender or a regular blender, rather than an electric mixer. The blades of a blender do a much better job of pulverizing any egg chunks that might be in there. Personally, I really dislike egg chunks in my eggnog. Blegh! In the picture you can see I was using an electric mixer, but later I had to use the immersion blender because I discovered some unwanted chunks during the taste test.

When you are cooking the eggs, cream, and milk, make sure to stir very frequently and keep a very close eye on it. The eggs can quickly start to solidify if it gets too hot or isn’t stirred enough. If this happens and you catch it right away, you can remove it from the heat immediately and blend the small amount of cooked egg back in. However, if you don’t catch it quick enough, you will have a big pot of fluffy scrambled egg. I may or may not know this from experience… and I may or may not have turned it into a quiche to avoid wasting it. That quiche may or may not have been delicious. 😉

img_20161212_202507When life gives you ruined eggnog, you make a quiche.

If you’d like to add alcohol to your eggnog, you can take away some of the milk and cream to compensate. Try to keep the overall liquid content the same to avoid an overly thick or thin eggnog.

To avoid having your eggnog go bad, I’d recommend drinking it within the time you’d want to finish an opened carton of milk, about a week. Since the eggs are cooked, you don’t need to worry about using it up within a day or two. Although, let’s be honest, that might happen anyway!

I Do… Or Do I?

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What do cold feet, long engagements, and runaway brides have in common? They all stem from the myth and the fear that marriage changes everything.

I’ve seen it countless times in real life, on TV, and in movies. A couple gets engaged, but starts to waver when it comes to actually making it to that alter. Or, in a similar situation, a couple stays together for years and years, supposedly committed to getting married one day, but postpones engagement for all of those years, or even goes through breakup scares or “on again, off again” cycles. It always makes me wonder, why do people make marriage so intimidating and complicated? Or more accurately, why do people have such trouble with commitment?

The way I see it, marriage is simple. It is a commitment to be with another person for the rest of your lives, to love and care for each other, and to be partners in life. To agree to such a commitment would be a scary thing if you weren’t sure about yourself, or the person you were committing to. But what does it really take to be sure?

I’ve heard many answers to this question. Some seem to think you need to know everything about your significant other to be ready for marriage. Some believe you need to resolve all of your issues as a couple first. Others think that a certain age, or educational, financial or career goal must be reached before marriage. My own marriage counselors seemed to believe that in order to be ready for marriage, a certain level of spiritual maturity, assessed by them using some arbitrary process I wasn’t aware of at the time, was necessary. But all of these answers are really just excuses.

I’ve been married for five years now, and I still don’t know everything about my spouse, nor does he know everything about me. We still have issues we need to work through, and we find new ones sometimes too. We were married young, before finishing college, and without having established careers or even the financial strength to support ourselves; yet none of those factors had a negative effect on our marriage. We have enjoyed these last five years growing together spiritually and in maturity, and building our lives together, despite the fact that many people said we “weren’t ready.” We were sure, and we were 100% committed to our marriage, and we had Jesus at the center. That was all that mattered.

So, I ask again, how can one be sure? I think the truth is, it’s simpler than it seems. As cliche as it sounds, when you know, you know. But also, it takes time to build a relationship to that level (but not that much time). What I mean is that it’s a process–you meet, you date, you get to know each other, you fall in love, you create memories together, you experience conflicts and struggles and learn to resolve them, you test your compatibility, you choose to love each other… and somewhere along the way, you discover that you know. Even when the newness and excitement wears off, and you start doing real-life together, you still feel that knowing. You find that you are not afraid of committing to this person. You find that you are already there.

When somebody is ready, engagement is a promise to demonstrate your commitment, and marriage is the final seal to that promise. Engagement and marriage are the proof that you are committed, but they aren’t the commitment itself–that comes before. In other words, the commitment should already be solidly and firmly in place when you decide to take those vows. It’s not a decision you can make on the spot after you’ve already walked down the aisle! It’s not even a decision you can make on the spot when your significant other is down on one knee. It’s something that you already know in those moments, because it has grown naturally and is ready to blossom confidently into marriage.

Marriage doesn’t change everything. It just declares what is already there. A wedding isn’t the beginning of a life together, it’s just one of the many steps along the way. A wedding won’t solidify a commitment that’s weak to begin with, but it can very easily expose that weakness. On the other hand, when it’s right, weddings can be a beautiful way to celebrate your love and commitment as a couple. But it has to be right, first. (And, sidenote, a marriage can start before a wedding happens, if financing the wedding is the hurdle holding a couple back. Personally, if I could go back in time, I would have gone and gotten married at the courthouse a year before I had my wedding, because we were ready then!)

So if you’re in line to get engaged or married, ask yourself: is it there, or is it not? Are you compatible, or are you not? Are you sure, or are you not? If the answer is “not,” then maybe the knot is not something you should tie. If you’ve been together for many years and you’re not sure (or they’re not sure), it’s likely you never will be. The truth is, marriage doesn’t make a relationship easier or harder. Time is the only thing that changes things, and those changes are out of our control. We can only control ourselves, and decide in our hearts and minds that we will stay the course. Are you ready to do that, or are you not? The answer should be simple.

Bible Giveaway Results

I’m posting this only because I said I would reveal the winner today, and I didn’t want to leave a loose end. Unfortunately, nobody entered the giveaway, so there is no winner! Boo. 🙁

Oh well, looks like my husband gets a new Bible courtesy of I Do… Now What?. 😉 He’s been wanting a new one anyway, so I guess that works out.

Anyway, have a great week!